The '04 River Run

Laughlin, Nevada

April 21rd to 25th, 2004

Friday, 4/23/04

Oatman, the Hawaiian Tropic Girls, and Kelly Richey

Oatman - 10:30, and things are just getting lively. Main Street was already lined with bikes from end to end, but there was still plenty of parking on the outskirts, and any riders just passing through could get on down the road without delay.

I think if I take in the River Run next year, I'll ride out on 66 Friday morning to Seligman, and have the huge ranch breakfast at Lilo's West Side; then cruise on back, hitting Oatman in the afternoon, when things are at peak, before heading back into Laughlin for the night shift.

I did a lap of Main Street on foot, checking out the bikes, looking for anything out of the ordinary; but it was H-D, H-D, H-D, all the way up and down the line. Nothing vintage or exotic yet.

I heard people getting off on "the Old West town", and the board sidewalks were ringside for watching the parade of bikes and riders on the street.

Oatman Fire Department chief Vas Naiker tells me they've responded to 4 bike wrecks on 66 this week; all new riders, no critical injuries. Two of the crashes were blamed on "wind gusts" blowing bikes off the road and out of control. Hmmm. There's a link to the Motorcycle Safety Foundation on the links page. I hear their riding courses are good medicine against williwaws and many other road hazards.

Oatman's always fun, but after 8 years living there, I had other plans for the day - bikes, babes, and blues in Laughlin.

I got held up by some business in Bullhead, then headed for the bridge. Traffic was getting thick, and some semis were still trying to get through instead of detouring to I-40, but it didn't take too long to get across the river.

First stop - where else? The Colorado Belle! The Hawaiian Tropic girls were scheduled to do a photo shoot out by the blues stage from 3 til 6; and a blues-playing lady named Kelly Richey was getting set to go on at about the same time. You can't beat this.

The HT gals drew quite a crowd - of course! For a mere $5 anybody could get up and get a picture of himself in Paradise on a hot bike surrounded by luscious loveliness.

Me, I stood up over the crowd on an empty beer keg and got some photographs of incredible beauty - for free!

But then something strange happened - one of the girls pointed at me and alarmed the whole bunch - then they started rushing around throwing on robes, and then they split!

Strange!! I thought this must be some psychotic delusion from chronic energy drink abuse. But then I got the photos back:

There they go, as fast as their lovely curves can oscillate. They were supposed to be on hand for pix til six. Don't think I'll ever get to the bottom of this...

Of course, I was crushed, and broken-hearted. But I was right in front of the blues stage, and Kelly Richey was ready to roll. This is like crashing in front of the Emergency Room; I got intensive care immediately.

I'm usually disappointed when a woman tries to sing the blues. It's tough. The ones who can do it well are terrific, and very rare. I sat down in front of the stage ready to rock, and ready to walk out.

Her voice clued me right away that I was onto something good - she can sing those blues whether she's sweetening up or letting you have it right between the eyes. She delivers the emotional range and power as straight as four fingers of whiskey.

It comes across in her guitar as well - she tickled and teased and then smacked the shit out of it. Her axe has more scars than Joe Palooka, and she knows exactly what she's doing with every move. Her take on "Hey Joe" got a spontaneous standing ovation from the crowd. I had tears in my eyes and was laughing out loud with pleasure! Wham!

She gave me a hell of a kick; special, but there was something familiar about it. It didn't take long to make the connection - it reminded me of the kick I get from seeing and hearing Johnny Winter live. That's cool. She's got the gift.

Of course I stayed til she was done. On the way out, I stopped and laid out $20 I couldn't spare for a 2-CD set called "Kelly Richey Live...As It Should Be".

Here Comes the Night

I didn't want to leave, but it was the best time to head for home and get ready for the night shift.

That nice twisty stretch of Casino Drive south of Harrah's was closed due to a wreck and investigation. I slammed a can of Red Bull while waiting, then took an alternate. Transit times are about doubled now - traffic, emergency dramas, and cops everywhere - can't make time nohow.

I got back on the strip just after 8. Took me 20 minutes to go a mile and a half, 6 feet at a time. His'n'hers bikes ahead of me - her plate: "SHE RULES"; his: "UNRULY".

I made it to the Belle at 8:30. Little Charlie and the Nightcats were playing a hell of a good set. You've seen people play guitar behind their heads; ever see somebody do that with a stand-up bass? When they quit, at 9, I took a walk out to check the street action.

It was a warm evening. Of course there were thousands of motorcycle riders cruising the strip, some blasting their engines, some doing timid little burn-outs. Between fresh river breezes the air was rich with the smell of hot engines, tires, and 50W. Any open lot was full of pick-ups and people tailgating the show. The sidewalks were packed with spectators. Satellite trucks from two TV stations in Vegas lurked off-street waiting for some action.

Who's playing now?

But it was pretty tame. Metro's River Run budget has gone from $70,000 to $300,000 thanks to that isolated little scrap in '02. No more wheelies for now.

I snapped a shot of two mounted cops near the Flamingo. They turned their heads to avoid the flash and spied some action they didn't like - trotted their horses across the street and grabbed some guy wearing just sneakers and baggy shorts. A horde of running foot cops appeared out of nowhere and swarmed the guy. A TV crew was high-steppin' right in there with them, sticking their fuzzy mike into the swirl of cops.

The horses bulled a way through the crowd so the cops could get their prisoner away to a secure area. And that was that - a ripple, some bubbles, and one goes under. Note the long riot baton hanging from the saddle.

There were three big-name acts in town this evening - Joan Jett at Harrah's, Lynyrd Skynyrd at the Flamingo, and Ricky Van Shelton at the Riverside. Triple 7 is playing at the River Palms. Downriver, the Avi's putting on "Foxy Boxing".

I hung out on the strip awhile, then relaxed on the Riverwalk, clearing my head with another can of Red Bull before heading home for the night. There's lots more tomorrow.



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